Andretti Autosport is not afraid to try new things. Formula E, Global Rallycross, Australian Supercars – it’s strayed from its IndyCar roots on many occasions, and its latest venture is something of a combination of everything it’s done so far.
The team has once again joined forces with British team United Autosports – which it works with on its Supercars program – for Extreme E, the new all-electric off-road racing series which plans to debut later this year.
After getting word on the new series early on, Andretti team boss Michael Andretti wasted no time in adding this radical new series to his bustling motorsport portfolio.
“When Alejandro Agag first came to us with this idea, we thought it was a great idea. He’s going beyond what he did with Formula E and now he’s going into another different type of racing which I think is very exciting,” Andretti previously told select media including DirtFish.
“I think with the whole sustainability thing and all that, going to extreme places on the planet with extreme race cars, I think is quite cool. I think that the format’s going to be awesome, having a male and female driver share a car, I think is a great, great idea and I’m just really excited about it.
He added: “We’re in the business of racing, it doesn’t matter what it is and we were one of the first to sign up with Alejandro in FE and it’s been a great relationship, it’s been a great program for us as the team.
”It’s a worldwide program, it’s a world championship as this is going to be now with the FIA so for our brand internationally it’s been great and plus we don’t know where things are going to go in the future, it may be all-electric, it may not be all-electric in the future so for us we want to cover ourselves.
“We’re in all different types of racing and so it’s worked out really well for us so far.”
With the team committed to XE, Andretti soon began discussing his latest venture with friend and frequent collaborator Zak Brown – the McLaren chief executive and United Autosports co-owner who had also worked with him on McLaren’s return to the Indianapolis 500 in 2017 with Fernando Alonso.
“We’ve become pretty good friends, we were discussing it one day and it’s like ‘well why don’t we go do this together?’” Andretti said. “That’s what we did and we’ve been having fun with it so far.
“I’m excited to see this thing get kicked off and get those cars out there running. It’s going to be great.
“[United Autosports co-owner] Richard Dean is going to be part of the program [too], we’re going to be using some of their guys along with the [Andretti] Autosport guys, engineering-wise as well as mechanics,” Andretti explained to the press.
“The guy that’s going to oversee the program is going to be Roger Griffiths who oversees our FE program.
“We thought he was a great choice because he really understands the whole electric side of things since he’s been in it since day one and I think we have a nice plan of a great team to line up between us and United.
“It’s been working great so far, we’ve done some things together in the past – we helped United when they raced over here, they brought their cars over for Sebring and things a couple of years ago and we helped them out there as well as we put both our people on some programs in the Supercars series down in Australia as well since we are partners with them down there as well.
“It made a lot of sense [and] it’s cool to be able to pool from resources from both sides.”
Andretti’s XE operation, which will be based at the team’s FE headquarters in Banbury, England, will also lean on its previous rallycross expertise – it won five straight titles in GRC and Americas Rallycross with works partner Volkswagen between 2015-19.
“I think both are actually going to be big, equally,” he said of how influential both the FE and rallycross programs will be on the team’s new XE effort.
“I know we have our guys that were on the rallycross program, involved in it, but yet we’ve got all the FE guys – the electric side is quite different than anything else so I think equally both are going to help our results.”
The team has signed 2019 World Rallycross champion Timmy Hansen and highly-rated rallying youngster Catie Munnings, and Andretti is excited about what the pairing can achieve on-track together.
“We looked at some others that had been with us that had been with us in the past and all that and in the end we felt that what we came up with was our best solution,” he said.
“You’re not going to take any of our IndyCar drivers because they have their own series and there would be clashes, and the same with FE and all the others so for us.
“We went out there and looked at guys that had driven for us in our rallycross program and stuff like that and then we also had the opportunity to talk to the two that we have and in the end we thought that those two were a great choice for us.
“You’ve got the former rallycross champion with Timmy and you have Catie who’s shown very well in the rally programs that she’s driven in.
“And I’ve got to say in the tests that we’ve done so far, she’s been right on the pace with the guys and I think that’s really really impressive so I’m pretty happy with what we ended up with.”
With high-profile partners and drivers lined up, the only thing missing is a manufacturer deal – but that’s something Andretti says could follow further down the line.
“I think there is definitely interest. If you look, all the OEMs are investing billions into electric vehicles and the US is doing that,” he said.
“GM announced a big deal, they’ve got the Hummer as well and Ford obviously is heavily into it, then you have Fiat Chrysler that are coming up with those same things so you’re going to have OEMs here in the US that are going electric and our job’s going to try to persuade one of them to come over.”